Change The World | Real Life

Nature’s Allies: How Girl Guide Volunteers Connect Girls With The Great Outdoors

Girl Guides
Via: Paula Sanderson

Calling all outdoor adventurers! Looking for a way to create unforgettable memories as you give back to your community, help girls believe in themselves, meet interesting new people, all while getting out in nature? Consider volunteering with Girl Guides of Canada!

Girl Guides began in 1909 in London, England, and more than 100 years later the organization continues to spark girls’ imagination and foster young women’s leadership and outdoor skills. The first Canadian unit sprang up in St. Catharines, Ontario in 1910, and today more than seven million girls and women from coast to coast have enjoyed the benefits of Guiding.

Three Guiders: Shontal Cargill, Lindsay Stanlick and Paula Sanderson share some of the reasons they love Guiding and would encourage others to volunteer.

Girl Guides facilitates lasting friendships

Most volunteer positions are team-based, allowing you to meet and work with people whom you might not have met elsewhere, and many of these relationships can develop into forever friendships. When asked about her friendships made through Girl Guides over the past 28 years, Paula says, “There are so many! I have such an amazing community of friends that I’ve met through Girl Guides.” One particular friendship that began when they were both just 8-year-old Embers endures today. They continue to volunteer together more than twenty years later and Paula says, “We’ve taken hundreds of kids camping as co-leaders in the 3rd Toronto Trex, shared countless tents and laughs, and have driven all over the province going on adventures together!” The pair will soon take a group of teenagers to a Provincial Camp event, “just like we did when we were 14 in 2008!”

Shontal, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Adviser for Ontario/Nunavut, found it difficult to make friends as an adult and expressed gratitude for the opportunity to meet and work with other young women through Girl Guides over the last five years. She says, “The opportunity to create lifelong friendships with your co-guiders and other team members is one of the reasons I love volunteering with Girl Guides of Canada!”

Girl Guides
via: Girl Guides Canada

It’s a fun way to see the world

We know that traveling broadens horizons, fosters cultural understanding, promotes personal growth, enhances adaptability, sparks creativity, and enriches life experiences, with the added bonus of being fun! Paula says, “I honestly think we have just as much fun as the kids—if not more.” She adds, “I became a volunteer leader at 18 while I was in university in Halifax, and it was a great way to make new friends and feel connected to my new city. I got to travel all over my new province camping and doing things I never would have had the opportunity to do if I wasn’t in Guiding. After graduating, Paula volunteered with Girl Guides at their World Centre in England and says, “I’ve travelled with Guiding to Australia, Ecuador and Switzerland and again, met the most wonderful people who I still travel with today!”

In addition to travel and camping, Guiders get to participate in science experiments, art projects, and outdoor adventures.

Guiders build leadership and teamwork skills

The Girl Guide vision is, “A better world, by girls.” To make this a reality the organization strives to support girls taking the lead. Shontal says, “Volunteering for Girl Guides allows young women to develop leadership, teamwork, and outdoor skills, fostering confidence and independence crucial for personal growth.” She says, “Supporting youth members as they build skills also helps us as adults learn. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship!”

Girl Guides
via: Shontal Cargill

Lindsay, the Outdoor Experience Adviser on the Ontario Council of Girl Guides says, “Volunteering with Girl Guides’ outdoor and adventure programs not only allows you to connect with nature but also helps you develop important life skills such as leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving.”

Guiders lead outdoor activities and facilitate outdoor skills

Lindsay, who has been with Girl Guides for 25 years, says Guiding has helped her develop skills and confidence in planning and leading outdoor activities. She says, “Girl Guides offers training and workshops to help develop and sharpen outdoor skills, whether you prefer indoor camping, car camping, or adventure camping. There are opportunities to fit what you are looking for at Girl Guides, and the experience can be incredibly rewarding and empowering.” She says, “It’s a chance to step out of your comfort zone, explore new challenges, and make a positive impact on the lives of girls and young women.”

Some of the outdoor adventures that Girl Guides members share include rock climbing, kayaking, canoeing, camping trips, hiking and more.

Girl Guides
Via: Paula Sanderson

Building outdoor survival skills was a key outcome of Girl Guides for Lindsay. She recently found herself in a challenging situation on an overnight camping trip with her unit when she discovered her tent poles were broken. She says, “Rather than panicking, I saw this as an opportunity to demonstrate problem-solving and teamwork. We gathered together and brainstormed possible solutions. Some suggested using branches to prop up the tent, while others looked for materials we could use to repair the pole.” She says, “In the end, we decided to use sticks and duct tape from our first aid kit to repair the pole. It was a creative solution that required teamwork and ingenuity.”

Shontal says, “The more time we spend outdoors, the better we understand how quickly things can change and how we can change with them. This skill is transferrable to many everyday situations. Becoming comfortable with uncertainty and willing to be flexible in a problem is a skill learned in the outdoors that has impacted my resiliency!”

Guides fosters a deeper appreciation for nature

In addition to building outdoor skills and experiences, Girl Guides seeks to foster a deeper awareness of and appreciation for nature in both the girls and Guiders.

Lindsay says, “Our camping trips always include a hike or two, and I make it a point to stop mid-hike to have everyone listen quietly and enjoy the nature around them. These experiences help girls develop a sense of wonder and appreciation for the natural world. By immersing themselves in nature, they learn to respect and care for the environment, fostering a lifelong commitment to environmental stewardship.” Lindsay says, “Additionally, we do a lot of trash pickup around our community, which not only helps clean up the area but also strengthens our connection to nature and reinforces the importance of taking care of our environment.”

Girl Guides
via: Girl Guides

For their National Service Project: Action for Wildlife, Girl Guides of Canada has partnered with the Canadian Wildlife Federation to take action for a better world and give all girls across the country the chance to learn about and contribute to a brighter future for Canada’s wildlife and their habitats. Paula says, “We are going to learn about, and contribute to, a brighter future for Canada’s wildlife and their habitats. My unit has chosen to focus on ‘slimey’ animals and will be working on action projects that protect our local wetlands!”

If your interest is piqued, here are a few more things to consider when looking into volunteering with Girl Guides:

  1. What is the time commitment? Volunteering for Girl Guides generally requires about 3 hours per week of planning and leading, plus additional time during the coordination and facilitation of day trips and overnights.
  2. Does it fit with my schedule? Girl Guide units meet once a week for 1-2 hours, depending on the age of the girls. The Girl Guides team will work with applicants to find the unit that best fits their schedule and location.
  3. What support is offered to new volunteers? Girl Guides provide training and mentorship programs for new Guiders in their first full year of Guiding, to ensure that they are supported throughout the entire process. Additionally, there are always at least two Guiders at each unit meeting, so they can support and mentor one another.

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